Most modern grocery stores can no longer claim local fame. Chain grocery stores are large conglomerates, owned by foreign companies focused on the bottom line. Unlike fifty years ago, the connection between the customer and the food has largely been lost.
This is not the case for Westboro’s Produce Depot, who recently celebrated their 25th anniversary. “We’re still locally owned and operated, and I don’t think anyone else can say that,” says owner David Barstead.
Keeping things small (with two locations) has been a benefit for David, as costs are lower and quality is the focus of the business.
“We’re a very select niche,” says David. “We fit in and survive even with the big grocery chains because quality is that much better – freshness, the availability, and a much wider variety of fruits and vegetables.”
Unlike large chains, Produce Depot’s products don’t get shipped to a warehouse where they will sit on a floor for days before heading to market. David’s buyer works nights at a wholesale depot in Montreal, buying fruits and vegetables to be shipped to the store first thing in the morning.
“The more local we get, the better,” says David. In addition to wholesale deliveries from Montreal, Produce Depot also carries a wide selection of products from local farmers. Farmers will often show up at the back door with a trunk full of goodies, and a new relationship is formed. If the products are comparable, Produce Depot prefers to buy from local farmers.
The grocery store business is an early one, and David and his colleagues arrive at the store by 5 a.m. “Our employees are key,” says David. At the 25 year celebrations, David identified eleven employees that have been with the store since the beginning. Customers seek out their favourite employees for a quick chat or to ask questions about the produce.
The population they serve is a diverse one, but customers all have one thing in common. “People are looking for great value,” says David. In an era of fast food and mass production, this is one grocery store that still puts quality first
1855 Carling Avenue
Ph | 613-722-6106